June 03, 2007

Come Out To Play

Game on?

Over the past few weeks, Contagious Magazine has reported on a couple of highly successful promotions by Orange and Red Bull in the UK that invite the audience to come out and play.

Whilst games of one kind or another have always been used by brand-builders to raise awareness and have customers engage with the brand, these particular games seem to me to tap into something elemental in the human spirit. Orange are offering tickets to the Glastonbury festival for those who predict where in the field a real-life bull will be on a particular day at a particular time - a sort of Spot-The-Bull update on the once-popular print game that's now played courtesy of video cameras and GPS.

Meanwhile, Red Bull have taken up the invitation of Facebook (what Contagious call "the clean and intuitive alternative to MySpace") to offer their variation on the traditional game of Rock Paper Scissors which they call Roshambull.

Why do these games in particular strike me? In large part because I can see our long-dead ancestors playing something similar around a campfire to while away the time whilst dinner was cooking: 'I can foretell from which part of the forest the hound will come' or 'Bet my shadow-animal will best yours'.

There is something about play that we sometimes ignore, particularly in the business-to-business (B2B) space where we mistakenly believe it has no place. The play that happens between a customer and the brand makes for a powerful connection that seems to operate at a primitive level and reaches deep to lean on what market research guru Clotaire Rapaille refers to as the "reptilian hot buttons", the part of us before the contrived and intellectual, the place from where our decision-making comes.

Rapaille argues that as a researcher he looks beyond the intellectual and the emotional to find that place where it all began for us, and suggests that brands that speak to the instincts of that place are the most effective.

We have seen something similar (although I don't like to see it in terms of 'reptilian hot buttons') through our own Smile Conference where we make much play on the word 'smile' and where delegates respond to our feedback form 'Smile or Frowns' with word-play, pictures and smilies of their own to let us know whether they found the event useful or not. This playfulness seems to allow for a frank and affectionate exchange that I don't believe would be possible if we were to take a more sensible, 'businesslike' approach.

What do you think? Which B2B brands do you know that successfully invite the customer to come out to play?

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